Love and Other Consolation Prizes

The main reason I picked up Jamie Ford’s new book was because it’s set in Seattle, Washington, and in the 100 degree weather, I needed a little bit of home.

In the year 1909, at the World’s Fair in Seattle, a young, half-Chinese boy is offered as a raffle prize, and for Ernest Young, it’s a chance for a new life away from the stuffiness of boarding school.

Ernest quickly loses much of his naivete once he arrives at the Tenderloin, a high-class brothel where he is the new houseboy. He befriends Fahn, a bold scullery maid, and Maisie, Madame Flora’s daughter, and finds his heart pulled in opposite directions. But as everything they’ve come to know and love threatens to fall apart, each one makes painful choices in the name of love–love of self and love for others. Told in a mix of present day and recollection, Ernest’s story is uncovered by his daughter, a journalist working on a then and now story on Seattle’s World Fair, which returned again in 1962. In sharing his own story, however, Ernest is trying to protect his wife, Gracie, who’s history is linked to his.

The first thing about this book is that, for being largely set in a Brother and Seattle’s red light district, it’s surprisingly PG, probably because the characters, as we meet them, are quite young, barely even teens.

The story keeps you guessing, which of the girls will Ernest choose? Or will it turn out to be someone completely different? And what will the girls do, when faced with awful choices? It’s not necessarily a story that glorifies that kind of lifestyle, but paints it in such a way that shows why some would easily choose it over their other options. And it’s a story of leaving behind innocence, despite hanging on for as long as possible.

The title is, perhaps, a little more irreverent than the story itself, but it’s a good story and a quick read. With underlying tones of politics, suffrage, vice and virtue, Love and Other Consolation Prizes is almost reminiscent of The Notebook in it’s gentle romance and dedicated love.

It’s certainly one to keep an eye out for when it comes out September 12.

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